Chronicles of the King of Kings: Asa                                                               2 Chronicles 14-16

Ash Wednesday                                   February 22, 2023,                        St. John, New Orleans

Today we start the season of Lent, 

whereby we prepare for the passion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Where we try to understand the need for his suffering and death more fully 

By reflecting on our own failures and sinful nature

And by exploring the Love for humanity that he must have to accomplish this task.

Simultaneously, we anticipate the end of that passion at his resurrection,

Even as we await the final resurrection of all souls, 

Where we will be united with our Lord and Savior once and for all time.

There are many names and titles that Jesus has acquired in this role as Savior, 

but for our purposes this Lent, we will be looking at the title of “King of Kings.”

“King of Kings” implies that he is the ruler of kings, which is quite interesting.

Because in the normal scheme of things, there is no-one above a king within his kingdom.

He not only is above the law,

But the king himself writes the law and judges those who break the law.

So, when we call Jesus the King of Kings, perhaps it would be interesting to consider which kings over whom Jesus is Lord?

Because we look first and foremost to scripture to understand our Lord, our attention is naturally drawn to the Kings of the Old Testament.

The Kingdom of Israel was established by God after a long period of Judges 

who were called by God to settle disputes among the people, 

and to be God’s voice of wisdom and justice within the Israelite lands.

The Judges did not make laws nor enforce them, 

but were rather the sounding board of the Law to God’s people,

chastising them when they strayed from God,

and warning of his retribution if they did not repent.

But after years of pleading with God to establish a Kingdom for themselves, 

God finally established Saul as the first king of Israel,

And allowed the Kingdom to survive in one form or another for 460 years 

until Babylon overpowered them and forced a mass exile into captivity.

During that time there were kings that were good and bad, faithful and unfaithful to God.

And tonight, we will look at the King named Asa.

What is most remarkable about Asa 

is that he got rid of the idols and symbols of all the false gods in Israel, 

and when an enemy from the South threatened to invade, 

“Asa cried to the Lord his God,... O Lord you are our God; Let not man prevail against you.” 

The peace held for 10 years 

during which his army was strengthened, his cities were fortified, 

and he plundered the cities The Ethiopians were camped in after the Lord gave them victory in battle. 

And the prophet of the Lord Azariah said to Asa, 

“the Lord is with you while you are with him. 

He will be found by you.”

This is a very important statement from the prophet because it demonstrates the priorities that Asa had were God was concerned. 

Asa had the right relationship with God 

and that he knew God was first foremost and preeminent. 

Not only in his life but in the life of his nation and even within the whole world. 

Israel throughout its history was very distracted. 

It constantly had enemies that would challenge.

It struggled with wealth at times and how to be proper stewards of God's blessings. 

They very often were enticed by foreign gods. 

Then later when the when Israel split into two kingdoms 

the rival kingdoms would even go to war with one another 

or at the very least taunt one another and their differing perspectives on God and how to serve him. 

And then there were the enticing alliances with neighboring kings 

with whom they had hoped they could gain the advantage 

over their brothers to the north or the South.

However when Asa came to the throne he turned Israel’s focus toward God 

by eliminating distractions 

and building up the nation so that they could be at peace. 

In fact, in the three short chapters of 2 Chronicles, where we hear of his reign, 

other than that early, first, challenge by the Ethiopian king, 

Israel did not fight a war within its borders for the first 35 years of Asa’s reign. 

And as we read the text we learn it was because Asa had turned the people's heart to God that God blesses them with this kind of peace.

Like Israel, we too are distracted by a great many things. 

We too have our enemies that swirl around us. 

We too struggle with our wealth and how we might be good stewards of the blessings of God. 

We too look towards false gods; 

other things in our life which we would put our trust in 

over and above our Lord and Savior Jesus. 

As a congregation we might even struggle with rival churches 

or within the church with rival church members through infighting. 

And we might even be tempted to engage in very enticing alliances with other organizations within a broken world who may not align with our scriptural principles and beliefs.

King Jesus brought peace by defining faith as trust in himself and nothing else. 

He is strong to save and there is no other above his name. 

And Aaa of Israel understood that about his God. 

Though he did not know the name Jesus yet 

he fully trusted in Yahweh to be his guide and his savior. 

Earlier tonight you heard the phrase, “Remember the you that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” 

being the king and great-great-grandson of King David, Asa had a pedigree that he could have cashed in on. 

He could have made his reign all about himself. 

But Asa knew better, that he was just a man, like the rest of Israel.

Asa knew that pompous pride and privilege was not what God expected from the king of Israel. 

They were God's representatives on earth. 

They were to be protector of God's people 

and the example of faithfulness for God's people. 

Asa remembered that he was dust and to dust he would return. 

He was God’s King for Israel.  He was God’s gift to the people, not the other way around.

Asa was the conduit, implement, and tool of God for him through which he would bless his people.

And as long as Asa honored that hierarchy and remembered his task, there was peace.

The first ten years of Asa's reign there were no enemies against Israel 

and then the next 25 years every power that challenged Asa was defeated 

as he sought God's protection, 

even over Ethiopia and Libya who were two of the great powers of his day. 

For 35 years Asa sought only to do the Lord's will for his people. 

Then, in the 36th year, Basha, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, challenged Judah and Asa by building Ramah on the border. 

But instead of asking God or his prophets what he should do, 

he sent a bribe to the king of Assyria, 

asking him to sever ties with the northern Kingdom, 

thus pressuring Basha to leave the border between Israel and Judah alone.

Because he disregarded God in the face of this challenge and his decision making process, 

he was told the rest of his reign would be marked by war.

And Asa became embittered. 

And by the 39th year of his reign his feet began to get bad 

and, again, instead of seeking the Lord, he sought earthly solutions via physicians, 

and he only got sicker, and died in the 41st year of his reign.

As we begin lent we are comforted by the fact that our fortune and fate is not dependent upon ourselves and our efforts. 

In Asa we see that even those who are faithful in following God 

are prone to taking credit for the results instead of God; 

That it was their act of faith 

or their obedience which brought about their measure of success. 

When, in reality, it was always God's will and his prerogative to bless Asa as his servant. 

What changed was not God, but Asa.

So, God withheld his favor as a result.

The traditions of Ash Wednesday are meant to strip us of every pretense of our own efforts to save ourselves from God's wrath, and to point us back to the one who saves. Jesus. 

He is the king of kings because only he was able to be the pure servant of God he was destined to be. 

And he could do this because he was actually God as well.

So Lent is not about being good or avoiding bad. 

We don't deprive ourselves of luxury to earn any respect or approval from God. 

The entire point of lent is to prepare our hearts for the Savior 

by reflecting on his complete and worthy purchase of our souls 

through his suffering and death on the cross 

so that at the resurrection of our Lord we may celebrate the new life we have from him 

with a joy that never ends.

During his 41 year reign, 35 of them were peaceful and a blessing to Israel 

because Asa let God lead himself, personally. 

When we allow Jesus and his forgiveness to lead us through life we too may lead a peaceful life, even if it isn't easy.

Remember, after a decade of peace,

Asa had to fend off hostile foreign enemies for the next 25 years. 

this must have been trying to say the least, 

but by God's guidance, Judah and Asa always prevailed.

We too will face challenges all through our life, perhaps interspersed with periods of peace. 

But, if we seek God's help above all others we too can be at peace continually

Even as we struggle and fight our battles in life. 

So, this Lent, let's focus on all the ways God blesses us and keeps us in his loving care, 

even as we struggle with our own troubles and challenges,

And let us especially use these next six weeks

to reflect on how we can decrease our own efforts to save ourselves, 

and rely on what the Lord has already done. 

In the name of Jesus, Amen.